Monday, 2 May 2011

Why Most Arguments Against AV Are Bullshit

Why You Should Vote Yes to AV

So I’ve been watching the electoral reform chat for some time. Basically the bad news is the people running the Yes To AV Campaign are all idiots. The arguments are poorly constructed, ill-thought out and fairly negative. They’ve been handed a gun and a barrel full of fish and somehow shot themselves in the foot. So instead here’s why most of the arguments against AV going around are total nonsense. I’m not saying that there aren’t genuine arguments against AV that aren’t dealt with here, but the better ones tend to be found in academic calculations whilst the headline ones are usually based on fabrications, illogical arguments or scaremongering.

So here are some of the arguments I’ve heard against AV.

‘AV is expensive’.

Yes, yes it is, you know, if you compare it to the price of bread. The figure banded about by the no to AV camp is £250million. Which is a lot of money. In fact it breaks that threshold in people’s minds where they stop rationalising it and start just sort of make a small whistling noise and go ‘well that’s a lot’. And it is a lot. But it quickly seems smaller when you compare it and break it down. So comparing it to other costs, according to ‘Where Does My Money Go’(1) we currently spend £54 billion on running the Government. Included in that is £9billion on ‘Top Level Government’ which then breaks down into £937million on the EU, £24million into research on running Government and £887million on public services admin. £7billion pounds goes into ‘executive and legislative organs’. In fact you can find out where all the money goes at Although that site does take stats from 2009, pre Tory government, so you can probably remove the £224billion on ‘Helping Other People’ now. (cheap left-wing joke of the day). Overall though even at £250million this still equals less than a fiver per person in the UK, which is the price of a couple of drinks (or one drink if you like Oran Mor, or five drinks if you visit dodgy student promo places). It’s a pack of cigarettes, a takeaway, 5 songs off iTunes, less.

However one thing that also helps this figure seem smaller is the fact that the £250million figure claimed by the No To AV campaign(2) is utter bullshit. For those that don’t check out the reference it is the number one argument on their own site. From this £250million is this £82million it costs to run the referendum, which I’m sorry to have to explain to the No To AV group, still gets paid even if the referendum is no. This is not a no win, no fee job. A further £9million is spent before the election on voter education. So we’ve already explained away the first £91million. As for the rest, No To AV claim that £130million pounds would have to be spent on expensive electronic counting machines. However these machines are optional, and there is no indication the Government would use them if they won. Furthermore Australia, who have AV, don’t have the machines, and Northern Ireland whose electoral system’s mathematics make AV look like a walk in the park, don’t have them either.

Personally I’m going to love to see the looks of the Norther Ireland vote counters’ faces when we turn around and go ‘yeah, no you keep counting like you were before, however this much easier electoral system that’s going to run along side yours, yeah, that’s getting new machines to make life easier’.

I’m not going to say that AV won’t be more expensive, but certainly the £130million figure, as Channel 4’s Fact Checker puts it ‘looks decidedly dodgy’.(3)

‘AV is only used in three Countries’

This is true. But as Ian Hislop quipped on Have I Got News For You “most of the world is starving, so it’s a great argument not to ea”’. It’s a rare political system. That’s probably a lot to do with the fact that it’s a half way house between FTPT and real-PR. Therefore most fall either side of the line. However this appeal to the majority doesn’t work out. Back when Britain started having democracy much of the world was living under dictatorship with no elections whatsoever, so should we have never introduced elections in the first place? Women didn’t have the vote in most countries in 1918, was that decision wrong? My general argument here, is that slowly bit-by-bit countries move on, develop new and better ideas, and being the rich smug western nation we are, we’re often a tad ahead of the rest of the world in adopting such changes. (I look forward to how much that last sentence pisses off Anthropologists).

Anyway we already have AV in this country. Just not at a Parliamentary level. Instead we use it to select our own candidates. All three major parties, including our own Mr. Cameron’s Conservatives, use AV to select their leaders. In fact under a FPTP system David Cameron didn’t even win the leadership election by his MPs. After the first round he sat in second place on 56 votes behind David Davis on 62.(4) It was only with the elimination of Kenneth Clarke that David Cameron took first place. (Note. This is a matter of principle, as due to the complex Tory election process where you the top two candidates make it through to a separate members vote to be elected leader, Cameron would’ve won anyway). However presumably all these people who say it would be terrible if someone who come first after the first round failed to go on to win are massive David David fans.

The ‘One Person One Vote’ principle.

Basically the No to AV group claim that AV gives people multiple votes by allowing them to rank candidates. The bad news is that they haven’t actually looked at how AV works in the slightest.

The best way round this lovely bit of spin by No to AV is to look at an AV election as multiple elections. In fact countries such as France do actually hold a similar system as an AV election. There the top two candidates from a first election fight it off in a second election.

So let’s view AV as multiple elections. Each election you lose a candidate and you have another election. So each round you can theoretically vote for another one. You can of course just re-apply your vote to the same person. However each round is a new election. So yes, you do kind of have more than one vote, but so do the people who vote for the person who wins every round, just they vote for the same candidate each time and each time they win or at least don’t get eliminated.

The extension argument behind the ‘one vote’ principle is trying to weigh up a second preference, do you care about your second preference as much as you care about your first? Not only is the implication behind this, that anyone who didn’t vote for one of two leading French presidential candidates at their last election shouldn’t be allowed to vote in the second election, but this argument also lives in a beautiful rose-tinted world where tactical voting doesn’t exist.

Let’s take me 4 years ago. Scottish elections 2007. My local constituency vote. My local constituency was a Labour vs SNP race, any other candidates were unlikely to stand a chance. Now I’m a big fan of the Greens, I like what they say, I also (this is 2007 remember) really like the Lib Dems. So I have to vote. I vote for Labour. The reason being is I don’t want the SNP getting in. However my first and second preference never got any vote. Under FPTP system my first and second preference count for nothing but my third preference gets my vote and counts as my only preference. At least under AV my first and second preferences would have got the initial extra vote, therefore meaning their initial numbers would’ve looked better. With tactical voting our actual first preferences count for nothing.

It Will Help Minor Parties

This is the classic ‘you’re helping the BNP’ tactic. This is in many ways true. AV does have the potential to be better for smaller parties. The argument does that by allowing people to choose their first preference, more people will choose more minority parties instead of voting tactically with the main two or three.

This is a fair criticism, but it’s also kind of the point. You see, under the fundamental rules of democracy if 10% of people want the BNP the BNP should get 10% of the seats/power. Advertising your electoral system with ‘it will exclude the BNP’ is only the same as advertising it with ‘in no way representational of what people feel’. I’m not saying the BNP should get in, but instead that they shouldn’t fail to achieve seats because we design a dubious electoral system to stop them, but because they are wrong and we convince other people they are wrong and no one votes for them. That’s how democracy works. And if God forbid 10% of people want to vote for the BNP, well then the sad truth is maybe that’s what they deserve.

It may very well help minor parties, but all that means is that we can celebrate the diversity of views we have in this country.

It Will Screw Over Minor Parties

Yes, the opposite is also true, confusingly. This argument goes that AV will make it harder for minority parties to get in, as they have to have over 50% of the vote in a constituency. All they currently have to do is achieve roughly a third, or basically be the most popular, which is different to overall having 50% of your constituency being okay with you in power.

This is a fair argument. But once more it kind of comes back to the ‘that is the point’ argument. If at the end of the day 50% of people would rather not have you representing them, and 50% would prefer the other guy, then they probably deserve it more. That’s just life. If minor parties aren’t getting elected under this then they will have to reassess their policies etc.

However the main evidence to back up this argument is that the Greens new MP only got in the thirties percentage wise to take her Brighton seat, and therefore she may not have got more than 50%. This is entirely speculative, and only with a complex poll would you be able to determine the number of second preferences she would’ve picked up from other groups. For all we know under AV she may very well have reached 50%.

It may very well be true. But I wish the No to AV campaigners would make up their mind of which they’re going to run with. It’s a clever tactic though, argue with both so whichever I refute only backs up the other.

‘We Need Strong Governments’

This is my favourite one. Because on a very principled level this is basically people saying they want democracy but only if they get their way. Or at least only if people agree with them.

The idea of this is, with the potential for more parties to get into parliament, because of people having diverse opinions and that, then we’ll spend all our time bickering and not get anything done. This is true to a degree, parties where there is not a majority Government are slower to process bills. However that doesn’t mean stuff stops like the scaremongers like to believe. Look at Scotland over the last four years, Acts still went through, and the SNP have still passed a lot of bills. 84 out of their 94 headline policies according to their own math, and even though I’d dispute how evenly equal their headline policies were as they seem to equate bills about how to stroke a kitten with the independence thing - their main reason for being a party - they did still manage to make 84 things happen. However what happens now, instead, is that you can’t bully through a bill. Instead of your PM going ‘I think this’ and it happening like God making light, they actually have to get people to agree with them, and sometimes this doesn’t happen, which means the bill doesn’t go through.

So yes, less bills do go through, but that’s because that’s how the real world works. People do have diverse opinions and not everyone is in agreement and therefore it’s harder to decide on a way forward. You know you have that irritating friend who kind of overpowers everyone socially and drags you to that shit club week in week out, well that’s your current Parliament set up.

Anyone who thinks strong Government is more important than it being representative of people’s views is presumably all up for the dictatorship I’ve been calling for for years.

‘It Will Lead To Backroom Details’

Usually this is used with a bit of ‘we all hate the Lib Dems now’ collective cheer leading. Basically they go ‘look what the coalition is doing now, they’re doing stuff that they didn’t say they would do before the election. Boo... hiss....’ This is a good line of attack. One that can only be brought down crumbling if we manage to find a single policy brought in by a majority Government that hadn’t been on their manifesto. So let’s take a line from the Labour 2001 manifesto because I haven’t picked on them yet: “We will not introduce top-up fees and have legislated to prevent them”.(5) You could also argue things like the Iraq War were never mentioned in a manifesto despite being put to a Parliamentary vote with a whip system in place as well, and then there’s always the list of things Labour said they would do that they didn’t including electoral reform, which is borderline ironic. In fact the Conservatives before the last election claimed the Labour 2005 manifesto contained 100 broken promises,(6) a figure Labour recently claimed over the SNP’s recent Scottish governance.(7)

So manifestos are just as unreliable when we have a majority government than with a minority or coalition government. In fact, it could be argued that with coalition Governments, as they tend to release a new set of plans once the coalition is announced you actually have more reliability over the four years with a coalition government. We didn’t vote on it, but the plans for this coalition Government are pretty laid out. Furthermore when a party does not have a majority it makes it harder to pass selfish or partisan bills, as they require the support of other parties to pass the bill.

‘It Will Halt Electoral Reform’

This is one of the few arguments being used by pro PR-systems people against voting for AV. The argument goes that AV is crap, and only mildly better than FPTP (some of course have argued that it is even worse than FPTP but that’s a separate debate). They argue that by voting for a system that is only mildly better than FPTP we are unlikely to ever progress onto a real PR system, we’ll forever be trapped by the gravitational pull of a FPTP system with a weak electoral system and more likely to gravitate towards than away.

One of the great examples to support this is the number of countries that moved to AV then back to FPTP or want to (the Australia example is popular). However this argument suggests there are a good collection of countries that have rejected an electoral reform referendum and then moved onto to later adopt another electoral system soon after - the truth is this pool doesn’t exist.

If the referendum wasn’t happening and someone asked whether to have PR or AV, there would be no question, but the truth is the referendum is happening and there can only be two outcomes next week - we accept AV and use it and hope one reform leads to another - reject AV and return to pursuing a better electoral system. Sights such as AV2011 fall on the latter category, but I feel this argument doesn’t take into account political communication, and momentum factors. The electoral reform campaign is at an all time high, largely because it has always been a headline policy of the Lib Dems who are finally in government (it’s probably worth noting with the Lib Dem collapse in the polls it’s unlikely we will see anything but the big two with majority for a long time under FPTP). If the AV bid is rejected, the no to AV will claim victory. The win will be associated as a Conservative victory and portrayed so in the generally right-wing press. Furthermore the momentum will die out, this is the electoral reform debate happening now, and the odds of the press turning round on May 10th when people still want PR and going ‘yeah, we kind of already ran that story’ are pretty high. There will be some aftermath of ‘what if it had been PR’, but this will most likely be post-humus speculation and not an attempt to bring the campaign back to life. Efforts will be exhausted, the public will be tired of the matter, and politics will quickly move on and electoral reform will be forgotten for another 30 years.

‘AV is complex’

It’s not really. Anyone can be explained how the system works pretty simply. Let me explain it for you.
Step 1 - Everyone casts their votes by ranking the candidates and their first preferences are counted.
Step 2 - Has anyone reached 50% of the total votes cast?
Step 3 - If yes, you have an MP. If no, go to step 4.
Step 4 - Eliminate the candidate with the fewest votes and reallocate their votes based upon the voters’ next preferences.
Step 5 - Go to step to 2 and repeat until you have your MP.

Was that really that hard? Furthermore there are drastically more complex procedures in Parliament that few people understand: committees; the structure of the House of Lords; how a bill goes through parliament; how the Parliament Act can be used. There is a whole host of political features that only lonely political geeks like myself should feel any need to comprehend. The truth is that at a basic level, all you need to know is what your local candidates stand for and what the different parties stand for on a basic level. The only extra complication needed to understand AV is an ability to count up to roughly about ten, and know what order those numbers come in. In truth there is no need for people to understand the electoral mathematics, just how to use their vote.

So there we are there are some arguments and why they are rubbish. As I said, there are genuine arguments to vote not to AV when the referendum comes, but these are usually not the ones being used as the widespread principles. Instead what we get from the No to AV campaign is myths about multiple votes and imaginary electronic counting machines. So happy voting.

1 -
2 -
4 -,_2005 (apologies this is a wiki article but it is a well referenced one and does put everything nicely in one place)
5 -
7 -

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Followers In Needs

Well it's been a while since I wrote anything on here (in fact it only happened once before.) But I thought I'd try and explain first of all why @followersinneed can be troubling and secondly, what they should do to stop it.

It is sad that many people these days are cynical and not willing to take the word of something initially offering money to charity. However the problem is that often we need to be sceptical.

For example (and I know this isn't on the same league but it shows how it works.) A couple of years ago a Facebook page was set up calling itself Glasgow University Freshers. Obviously this appealed to all university students about to start going to Glasgow University. It picked up 1000s of friends. Then come the day the name changed to a nightclub promo group who then had thousands of people to spam with their events. The page wasn't created or condoned by Glasgow University, and it certainly didn't have widespread appeal. It was spam. And fraudulent spam.

(If anyone else has other examples of this happening send me an email ( (@gdhp).

Create a profile that will get a lot of followers/friends, to then use it for less honest purposes is worrying but does happen. Currently there is no proof that they won't turn around and turn it into a twitter page that sells vacuum cleaners or what have you.

Many people might think this is a small problem. If it's fake, people leave, no harm done. However this is not entirely the case. For instance as @DaveGorman has rightly pointed out:

"Charity-fatigue is a real problem.If they're fake they're not just not helping, they're doing harm."

Charity fatigues is a massive issue here. If it is fake, then groups like this spread the scepticism. If no one had ever had the idea of a fake profile then I wouldn't be sceptical in the first place. The next time a charity/wellwisher does this for real, more people will not follow it/join in because they fear it is fake. It can be damaging.

It's also worth noting that some people will fill following @followersinneed is doing their bit. By donating 50p via an effortless follow on twitter, some will feel that's 50p they then will keep to themselves and not spend at a charity back sale or something else. People will feel fulfilled for not doing anything to actually help.

There is no denying that setting up a fake profile is incredibly easy, for instance as @writerjames wrote:

"I could set up a sham account tonight, linking to Sport Relief, saying I'll give them a pound for every follower I get... how do you suggest Twitter users distinguish between yourselves and such a hypothetical sham?"

So there we have it. The account can be damaging and is very easily done, and has been done before.

So what should @followersinneed do. Simple.

Verify how they fundraise. Tell us how they pay 50p per follower. Where does this money come from?

The only logical method I can see where money would get donated via such a method is if the account is meant to turn into spam.

For instance they turn round to company x and go "we'll send out your product to 30,000 people if you pay 10p per one." Do that to 5 companies and you're in, that and the companies get a good advertising deal. Everyone wins.

If they are doing this it might explain their initial nervousness to explain how they work, however as much as they might lose temporarily with the initial 'urgh adverts' feeling, they'd gain in the long run as the likes of myself and other sceptics suddenly started following and told others to follow.

As @davegorman wrote no sooner than 15 odd minutes ago:

"DM me a phone number if you like. I'll give you a call. If real, I'll promote you to 100k! No need to be defensive."

That's better than a few people who'd leave.

However, it doesn't look like this is their fundraising method. After all their own description reads:

"Money is being raised in some local villages & large companies have donated money"

What have local villages got to do with @followersinneed? It certainly doesn't fit with the idea I wrote above.

I am not, and to make this perfectly clear I will write it in capitals, I AM NOT TRYING TO SAY THAT @FOLLOWERSINNEED IS FAKE!

I hope it is real. I hope they will respond to my pestering, or the perstering of many others and write one simple blog post, explaining how they raise their money.

I will announce at the bottom of this blog that FollowersInNeed is definitely genuine if they say:

1) How they raise the money
2) Who pays the money
3) How the followers will get verification that the money was sent at the end.

As I write they have 12,423 followers. That means £6,233 raised. That's enough money for the people who are helping to donate it to want to know it's definitely going to CIN.

I apologise for the cynicism that comes with this blog. But given how simple it would be for @followersinneed to verify this, it grows increasingly worrying when they don't.

So, presuming it is real, and hoping they happen to read this blog, @followersinneed please verify that you are genuine, so we can end this scepticism and I and @davegorman and a thousand others can get on with promoting your page and raising money for such a worthy cause.



If Followers In Need or anyone else wants to get in touch:

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Janet Street Porter

Right, so somewhere on Saturday I read an article by Janet Street Porter and became enraged. My friend and I read the article together and both gasped and sighed and raged and moaned at the ignorance of it all. 24 hours later my rage had not lessened, neither had my friend's. So together a Facebook group was born. By Wednesday morning we had broken 2,000 people. By Wednesday night, 2700 had joined. It exploded. It's been wonderful.

But from it all many people have questioned the validity of the backlash against the article. So I thought I would take my time to defend the campaign. There are three issues: the accuracy; the offence; and the sentiment. The more valid being first and the more debatable later on. I would like it noted everything I say from this point on I say as myself. I am not a bulk representative for the people who were offended by Janet Street Porter, I'm just the guy who made a Facebook page. These views are mine, not a group.

So first, the accuracy of Janet Street Porter's article. I have already gone on about how inaccurate it was; if people really want the stats to back up how inaccurate it was, I cleared most of them out during the original blog post on the official blog for the campaign. Although also I did fall a little bit in love with the "The Evidence Game - pick a quote, prove it's wrong" discussion thread on the Facebook group. There is some wonderful pieces of research happening there.

However in case you were unaware this rather heavily breaks the PCC code. Article 1.i of the PCC code states "The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted
information, including pictures." She broke rule 1 of the code, I mean you'd think you'd remember the first one and then switch off? Anyway, for those of you unaware of the PCC code, it is a code agreed to by the editors of the newspapers and to which they have all agreed. This isn't forced upon them from above. This is their own rules, and yet still the Daily Mail has broken it with the highly misleading statistics in Janet Street-Porter's article.

There is some form of a freedom of speech argument kicking around this whole bit. There are two responses to this that exist, the first was a quote said to me by a friend of mine today who said "I can go around telling everyone Blue Wales don't exist, freedom of speech doesn't make me any less of an idiot for doing so." Second of all, on a more academic note, it ought to be stressed the responsibility of the media. Like it or not the media do still call themselves 'newspapers', there is one important word written within this, 'news'. As it is news, it comes with the implication that any information within the paper will be accurate. If Janet Street Porter had been shouting this stuff off in the street, I would think she was an idiot, but I wouldn't say she didn't have a right to do so. But a newspaper with a circulation of hundreds of thousands of people must hold themselves to some degree of respectibility. They are put in a position of responsibility and trust by the people who buy the newspaper, and the people who read the paper have a right not to be lied to or mislead by statistics. The paper has a right to be partisan, that's how they appeal to people. I would class the Independent as being my favourite paper, and it has a very distinct ideology, it just happens to agree with my own. So yes, the Mail has the right to an opinion, and the right to 'believe things', but a powerful force in this country, whose job it is to disseminate information to the wider public does not have the right to print stuff that is factually inaccurate. Newspapers have a role and a duty in this country, they are often described as the 'third arm of politics', bridging between Government and people, and that comes with responsibility - to share information accurate and responsibly. Even they decided that.

Second of all - offence. There is some grey area existing in this, and this is primarily where the classic freedom of speech argument comes in. However the freedom of speech argument, unless amognst total purists, often has one very minor flaw in that most people will have some niche that makes them go 'oh no, you can't say that.' For instance, if you take mental illness sufferers as a group of people, then they are a group of people that have a set identity. They are still unique individuals, but they have something that binds them, in the same way that people of the same race do, homosexuals do etc. Most people would probably say writing a piece in the Daily Mail that was explicitly racist was wrong, or a piece that was recieved as homophobic was wrong, so why whould a piece that has offended so much of the mental illness community be treates any differently?

There is one line in this article which I bring up time and time again, but it's one I always need to come back to.
""Now, men are jumping on the depression bandwagon [...] 45 per cent of women earn the same or more than their husbands, then the male ego is under attack [...] at this point, I'm afraid to say, I laugh out loud. The idea of feeling sorry for a bloke with low self-esteem is frankly, risible. Let's just call it karmic revenge for all those years men have been in charge of everything."

Now, I initially read this line and threw the paper on the floor. I then picked it up again, and I swear I tried to find humour, or irony, or an argument to defend this sentence, but I honestly can't find one. I can't see where the defence comes from. Let's go like this: I am a man, I have a mental illness - what is Janet Street Porter's response? "I'm afraid to say, I laugh out loud. The idea of feeling sorry for a bloke with low self-esteem is frankly, risible". Oh and what is your reasoning behind this, Janet? "Let's just call it karmic revenge for all those years men have been in charge of everything."

WHAT? How is that comment logical, rational, intelligible, or anything other than horrendously offensive, deliberately sexist and quite frankly childish. If Janet can tell me why I'm suddenly responsible for the actions of a bunch of Victorians who did actions with which I totally disagree, and why this means I deserve to be mentally ill then I would be most greateful. How dare you say because something happened somewhere, and it was caused by some people I happen to share a chromosone with, I deserve to have low self-esteem, and furthermore you find my low self-esteem funny. It's illogical nonsense. It's like me going, "yeah, once my girlfriend cheated on me, so I don't have any sympathy for girls who get cheated on." It doesn't make sense.

Thirdly we reach the sentiment of the article. Many people on the Facebook group have agreed with the sentiment of the article, and there is maybe a slim piece of me that does as well, but overall I don't. Her general attitude is based upon, there are some people who are saying they're depressed and some people who are actually depressed, and these first bunch of people are wrong. Well that's great and all, but unfortunately we're dealing with a slightly wider issue than twenty questions here. First of all, you have to question the motive of someone who 'wants to be depressed', I mean who would seriously wish that upon themselves. Yeah, maybe they're just attention seeking, but maybe they're attention seeking because they feel they really need help because they constantly feel down, and you know, they're depressed. But what really annoys me about the sentiment of this article is the implications it has.

Depression is not something you can know yourself whether you're definitely depressed or not. Many people who do have genuine clinical depression probably label themselves attention seekers, and don't really accept it themselves. If you tell people, and complain about people who pretend to be depressed but aren't, then what message does this sent to people who are depressed who are afraid about getting help.

To get personal for a second (and I promise this is the only time I will ever do this throughout this campaign), I myself had various problems from God knows how young. But I didn't go to the doctor and didn't talk to anyone about how bad I felt or any of the thoughts that went through my head, because I decided I must be an attention seeker, and must just be making it up in my own head. I would probably have never seeked genuine help had it not been at the age of twenty when I had something pretty close to a complete collapse that it all came out and I spilled everything out to my poor mother. And even then, I told her about depression and some of the things I had done because of it, purely as a side story to what had caused the events in my life as of late, and it was she who told to go seek medical advice. Had it not been for me openning my mouth accidentally, I may never have seeked it.

So here's my advice for anyone who feels down, who has for a long time, and thinks they may be suffering from depression. Don't listen to Janet Street Porter, don't listen to any other loon that tells you otherwise. Tell people. Tell people and those who love you will understand and do everything to make things okay. And there are people who love you and will care for you. Whether they're your family, your friends, whoever. Tell them. And then, with their support go seek medical support and ask your GP, and tell him everything. Don't go in and go 'I'm depressed', go in and go 'I can't sleep, I cry every night, I suffer from this, I suffer from that' and let him come to the conclusion of what you should do. That's what he's there for. And unless he wants to get sacked he will be supportive and he will help.

There are a thousand and one mental charities now linked up on that Facebook group, I will at some point link to them properly. I know some of these people, and all of them seem like the most understanding people in the world. Talk to them, see what they say. Just don't keep it to yourself. Be open. 'Nuff said on that.

But this is my point. I would rather we as a society gave sympathy to a handful of people who maybe don't deserve it than we miss one person who has genuine clinical depression. I don't care how high we have to set that bar of acceptance to be, if it means we catch everyone of those people, and we make their lives better, then what difference does it make to our lives that some woman somewhere sold a few more autobiographies. If depression is becoming fashionable then thank God, because maybe people will be willing to talk about it then, maybe all those people with depression will be running to their doctor's to say that they might have this new trendy illness. Great, we'll find them all now, and give them the support they need. Wonderful.

The more we talk about depression, the more acceptable it is, the trendier it is if you will, then the more we can talk about it openly and accept it in our society. The fact that so many depression sufferers, even after they've been diagnosed, still can't talk about it, is a crying shame, and I would love to see a society that talks about it more. So I do not deplore the gloom fashionistas, I applaud them for making this terrible illness an acceptable thing to talk about.

That is a hopeful message. What isn't a hopeful message is the classic tight-upper-lip appraoch of "get a grip", or "well I got through it" or the "the rest of us aren't depressed." I don't see how in anyway messages like this are constructive, who do they help. Yeah if you tell someone who can pull themself together to do so, great, they're fine. You tell the entire public to do that through a national newspaper that they need to "get a grip", then all those people who genuinely can't are going to feel a darn sight lot worse. "Get a grip" should never be an acceptable message to say to anyone feeling down, let along should it be promoted as the standard approach in a national newspaper, and that is why whether she intended to do damage or not, exactly why Janet Street Porter's article was so dangerous.